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Unemployment up 10 percentage points in St Vincent and Grenadines

Unemployment in St Vincent and the Grenadines has by 10 percentage points since March, according to estimates from that country’s minister of finance, Camillo Gonsalves.

Speaking in the St Vincent and the Grenadines Parliament on Monday, June 22, Gonsalves said despite the coronavirus pandemic, the country is “weathering the economic storm as well as can be expected”.

St Vincent and the Grenadines’ Minister of Finance Camillo Gonsalves (Photo: iWitness News)

The finance minister further pointed out that since lawmakers approved the EC$69-million recovery and stimulus package on March 26, “the global and regional projections for economic decline have become more pessimistic.

“The world and St Vincent and the Grenadines [are] looking at a more pronounced, more severe economic fallout than was anticipated even three months ago,” Gonsalves continued.

The finance minister stated that his country’s economy has experienced reduced productivity, depressed retail and commercial activity, near non-existent tourism, and increased unemployment as a result of the COVID pandemic.

“Considering the impact of the pandemic on the informal sector, we can safely assume that the unemployment rate has increased by more than 10 percentage points over the last three months.”

— Camillo Gonsalves, minister of finance, St Vincent and the Grenadines

Formal and informal sectors

Gonsalves noted, too, that within the formal sector, data from the National Insurance Services (NIS) indicate that 395 businesses have partially or completely shut down since March 1.

“These 395 businesses represent over 16 per cent of the total active employers registered at the NIS. Over 3,000 claims have been filed with the NIS for employment benefits and displacement supplementary income,” he said.

With the increase in claims, Gonsalves assumes that unemployment has increased an additional six per cent.

An aerial view of Kingstown, the capital of St Vincent and the Grenadines. (File photo)

“Considering the impact of the pandemic on the informal sector, we can safely assume that the unemployment rate has increased by more than 10 percentage points over the last three months,” he further stated.

Caribbean comparisons

“While our unemployment rate will likely exceed 30 per cent in the short term, the ECCB (Eastern Caribbean Central Bank) is predicting 50 per cent unemployment rates in some of our sister nations. As indicated earlier, over 3,000 claims seeking unemployment assistance have been filed at our NIS.”

The Eastern Caribbean Bank in Basseterre, St Kitts and Nevis, predicts that while unemployment may surpass 30 per in St Vincent and the Grenadines, the figure in other Eastern Caribbean countries may approach 50 per cent. (Photo: OECS Business Focus)

In St Lucia, for example, the corresponding unemployment number is 22,000, though that country has 70,000 more people. Some 43,000 people are seeking similar unemployment assistance in Barbados, which has a population of 287,000.

“In Antigua and Barbuda, Prime Minister Gaston Brown has estimated that hotel closures and lockdowns have caused over 20,000 residents their jobs in that country,” Gonsalves said.